Postgrad application timetable
The most popular postgraduate study options can be oversubscribed and you will only be accepted if your application stands out from the crowd. Choose your path well in advance and engage in activities which demonstrate that you have the skills and commitment required. Above all, your application should show that you are genuinely committed to your area of study and that you will add value to the department and the university.
Most postgraduate applications will require a personal statement, and for research postgraduate courses, a research proposal. You may also need to provide copies of certificates/transcripts of previous qualifications. Always follow instructions you are given and tailor your application carefully.
There is no central admissions system that covers all postgraduate courses. Most applications are made directly to a college or university but some vocational courses use other application systems like UCAS, so check details.
Timetable for postgraduate applications
Most postgraduate courses have no official closing date, but you should still apply as soon as you are ready. Exceptions include medicine, law and teacher training. In all cases, allow yourself plenty of time to do your preparation for applications.
18–24 months in advance
- Consider your options and research how you can give yourself a good chance of success when it comes to filling out your application forms. For example, you could identify appropriate voluntary and work experience opportunities. This may be essential for certain courses such as social work, journalism and health professions.
- If you are interested in research, investigate potential supervisors and make initial enquiries. They may also be able to help with funding opportunities.
12–18 months in advance
- Continue researching your options. Some courses may have early closing dates for applications, so check in plenty of time.
- Speak to members of staff at your own institution who are experts in your chosen field. They may be able to suggest related areas of study and institutions worth investigation.
- Attend relevant postgraduate fairs and university open days.
- If you have a specific research interest and have identified a supervisor, consider writing your own research proposal for submission to funding bodies.
- Consider your options for funding your course.
6–12 months in advance
- It is time to start to plan and take action with regard to making postgraduate applications in the UK.
- If you have not already done so, make initial enquiries about courses. Prospectuses are often available online. Make contact with course tutors and check course details, specific entry requirements and the possibility of nomination by the department for a funding award (where relevant).
- Attend department open days or arrange a visit to the department.
- Secure good academic references to support your application as they are critical to the selection and any award-seeking processes. Choose your referees with care and discuss your plans with them.
- Write personal statements. Look at examples used by real students to enter postgraduate study.
- Make applications as soon as you are clear about the courses or research programmes you prefer, possibly before Christmas or soon after New Year.
- Look into any available funding and make applications.
Last 6 months
- Course providers start to call in candidates for interviews and it is important to be prepared.
- You will probably find out if you have been successful in obtaining offers and whether funding is attached. The offers are usually conditional depending on your final degree results, so give priority to your academic work.
- By the end of the academic year, departments are clearer about the level of funding available and, subject to a candidate's degree performance, can confirm or clarify their offers.
- If you have made a late decision to consider postgraduate study, keep looking for courses and research posts because it is still possible to pick up late offers, particularly if you have your degree results rather than a predicted grade.
Applying for teaching, law or medicine
Some vocational postgraduate courses will have precise timescales and requirements. Familiarise yourself with all the relevant details. UCAS is the application portal for teaching, medicine, social work and performing arts courses.
- You can search and apply for various courses via UCAS Teacher Training, which provides a single admissions process for PGCE courses, School Direct and SCITT routes.
- Applications for teacher training open in mid-October for entry in the following academic year. It's possible to make applications right up to the beginning of the academic year but many training providers will fill their places well in advance of the start of the course, so apply early if possible.
- The application process is in two parts, called Apply 1 and Apply 2. All applicants will enter the application process at Apply 1 regardless of the date when they first apply.
- Candidates who do not hold an offer through Apply 1 can then make further applications to one provider at a time through Apply 2 which opens in November.
- Law undergraduates should apply from September onwards in their final year, while non-law graduates should do so from September onwards while studying for the Graduate Diploma in Law. There is no longer a closing date for applications; instead, they are dealt with as they're submitted.
- Applications for almost all institutions that offer the LPC course are managed by the Central Applications Board – contact the board for an application form or apply online.
- Candidates are advised to submit their applications as early as possible. The deadline for first-round applications is January prior to the academic year of study, with a clearance pool opening in April and closing on the 1st September.
- Dates can change every year and can be checked on the Bar Standards Board website. Applications must be made through the Bar Student Application Service.
- The deadline for entry to medicine courses every year is mid-October and applications are made through UCAS.
- Detailed information about procedures and entry requirements can be found at NHS Health Careers.
Advice for overseas students
- If you are an international student (non-EU), allow yourself plenty of time to research options, but also to deal with visa administration.
- You will need a relevant visa in order to study a postgraduate course in the UK. UKCISA and the British Council give reliable and up-to-date information about student visas.
- If you are a current undergraduate in the UK, your university’s international advice team will be able to advise you on extending your visa. You will need to have the offer of a course place in order to be granted a visa.
Written by Fiona McNamara, University of Liverpool, November 2016